|Fear our wrath|
It wasn't always like this, you know. We'd had some rough patches with the boy and feared that he might not attain whatever hoped for success fantasies he could live out for us some day. That is, he'd end up like everyone else. Pretty OK, but maybe not quite what might have been. At least in our minds. Neither a baseball star nor a president. Now we can start believing again.
So this is how I came to understand that there are some remarkable people out in the world who can actually unlock the hard little green sponge that is the mind of a child. In our case a remarkable music instructor at his school and a math tutor who runs a private teaching service downtown. I call them child whisperers. They work great miracles in ways that I cannot quite comprehend. But I am very proud of the results.
Educating your kids is worth fighting for
There was another educational miracle that touched a lot of us pretty deeply, and that was yesterday's decision by the PUSD's Board of Education on an appointment to fill an empty two year at-large seat. Something that on the surface might seem like a fairly humble thing, but for those of us who have for some inexplicable reason chosen to immerse ourselves deeply into the wild and strange world of local politics around here, an event of far larger significance than you might have ever known.
Here is how James Figueroa describes what went down in today's Pasadena Star News (link):
Learning Works director Mikala Rahn appointed to Pasadena school board vacancy
By James Figueroa, Staff Writer
@jfigscribe on Twitter
PASADENA - Mikala Rahn, the founder of Learning Works charter school, will join the Pasadena Unified School District board after she was appointed Saturday to fill the remaining two years of a vacant seat.
Rahn, a Sierra Madre resident, won the board seat on a 4-2 vote by the six other members of the board, and is set to be sworn in at the next meeting on June 11. She will take Seat 4, an at-large position representing the entire district.
"It's an honor," Rahn said. "I'm feeling very, very good that were all going to get along and it's going to be good."
She beat out investment banker Carmen Vargas in the final vote, following the board's interviews with nine finalists on Saturday. The finalists had been selected from a pool of 37 applicants who qualified for the position.
"I think she just stood out," said board member Scott Phelps, who nominated Rahn and cited her extensive experience working with PUSD as an indication that she could quickly become familiar with issues in the school district.
Learning Works, established five years ago, is dedicated to getting dropouts back into classrooms and has proven successful with its "chasers" model, staff members who follow-up with absent students.
Rahn also works with homeless youth and others on probation through various organization, and she was previously involved in PUSD as a Sierra Madre PTA president and Washington Middle School site council member.
Although the seat is at-large, the appointment satisfied Sierra Madre residents who had decried a lack of representation on the board with the establishment of voting districts this year. Some residents had threatened to start a petition that could overturn the appointment with a special election, but they backed off once Rahn won the seat.
However, the appointment also ensures there won't be any Latino board members for the next two years. Board President Renatta Cooper pushed to appoint a Latino candidate, backing Vargas in the final vote, but no other board member wanted to make race a factor in the decision.
There can be little doubt that Sierra Madre resident Mikala Rahn's appointment to the final two years of this "at large" seat is in large part due to her remarkable resume' and successes with Learning Works. Her real world accomplishments alone make her a great selection to a Board of Education that has, in the minds of many, gone badly adrift over the last few years. A place where some rather bizarre ideological agendas have dominated, with predictable results that have been devastating to the core mission of any school district. Teaching kids.
But that said, you also need to consider just how far her appointment has symbolically taken Sierra Madre. Here we were the community that had become, under an unfair and poorly conceived "subdistricting" scheme that purposefully denied us the right to vote in last March's Board of Education election, something of an unwanted stepchild. One whose own very real interests had been covertly shoved aside to accommodate a cynical, politically conceived and racially balkanized catastrophe of a system that seemingly had no real use for us beyond serving as a reliable source of tax revenue for them.
All of that has now gone full circle with the aims of our detractors having failed miserably, and Sierra Madre getting its first representative on the Board of Education in years. Not the kind of outcome the Ken Chawkins, Peter Dreiers, Jon Fuhrmans, Renatta Coopers and Bill Bogaards of this world thought they would get. Or hoped would happen.
(Inserting a reader's comment here: There was a miracle that occurred at the school board meeting yesterday. As the board was immersed in an intense debate over Latino vs. qualified person to fill the vacancy, a young voice spoke out from the audience. This whole board meeting was filmed and as such a cameraman and his assistant - or girlfriend - had been there the entire day listening to the proceedings. This young Latina spoke up in the midst of the impassioned discussion and said that she didn't think it was right that someone be placed in a job just because of what they look like. She thought that considering someone's qualifications was more important than considering their race. I tell you, her comment took all the wind out of the room, and really and truly, I believe that is why Mikala Rahn was elected to fill the vacancy. Talk about speaking truth to power!)
I believe a lot of that might actually be behind us now. This was a serious defeat for the bad guys. People who for the first time in quite a while will find themselves sitting on the sidelines as the important decisions are made. This PUSD thing just might get saved yet.
It also appears that we will be hearing some very good news shortly regarding our sorely tested Middle School. The bids are at long last in and it looks like ground will be broken soon for a brand new school that will make all of us proud. A fitting testimonial to a town that always leads the district in academic achievement. We take education seriously in Sierra Madre. We take care of our kids. We need to take care of them all.
Would any of this have happened had some brave residents not gone to the meetings, made their feelings known and yelled their bloody heads off at every opportunity, and in every conceivable way possible? I kind of doubt it.
Once again we are the mouse that roared. The smallest town in a big school district that refused to be ignored. It works for us. And often that is all we have. I doubt they'll ever think stealing our vote is a good idea again. We're a terrible nuisance once we get riled.
On a personal note I would like to thank my friends Gretchen Vance and Tony Brandenburg for standing up. I hope this community understands what they owe to you both.